The Awardist podcast: Lorene Scafaria on Hustlers, and Lulu Wang and Zhao Shuzhen on The Farewell
In the latest edition of EW’s The Awardist podcast, it’s two interviews for the price of one, as we sit down with the filmmakers behind a couple of the year’s most heralded movies.
First up, EW’s Shana Naomi Krochmal and Clarissa Cruz speak with Hustlers writer-director Lorene Scafaria, who fought hard to adapt the screenplay for the film, and then even harder to get to direct it.
“For me, writing is always an exercise in empathy, so I was really interested in taking characters in a world that felt misunderstood, and then this crime that took place and where they went, that feels really hard to understand for people — I was interested in telling that fuller story,” Scafaria says of adapting the screenplay from New York magazine’s 2015 article The Hustlers at Scores: The Ex-Strippers Who Stole From (Mostly) Rich Men and Gave to, Well, Themselves, by Jessica Pressler.
Although it was not a foregone conclusion that she would direct the film, Scafaria says she knew her best shot came from being the one to write the screenplay. “I have to tell this story, and if I have any grand designs of directing it, the only way that’s gonna happen is by writing it and trying to write my way into the director’s chair, which I’ve done before,” she recalls.
During the interview, Scafaria also talks about working with Jennifer Lopez, why there’s so little nudity even in the film’s strip club scenes, and how an introvert such as herself is handling the crush of Hollywood awards campaigning.
Then, Cruz speaks with Lulu Wang, writer-director of The Farewell, and Zhao Shuzhen, who plays the film’s irrepressible Nai Nai. Wang discusses the negotiations required to make a film that felt as grounded in its Chinese heritage as its American story. “American producers didn’t really see it as an American film, they saw it as a ‘my big fat Chinese wedding’ kind of film, but they wanted the characters to all speak English and not to necessarily set it in China,” Wang says. “So then I pitched a Chinese producer thinking, well, maybe it’s a Chinese film, but the Chinese producer said the main character was too Westernized, her perspective is not a perspective that the Chinese audience would relate to.”
Luckily, it all worked out in the end, and Wang shares the lessons she learned from the whole process. The two also talk about why the movie challenges traditional awards show categorization, and about Awkwafina’s beautifully restrained lead performance.